BAGHDAD (AP) – The U.S. military on Friday blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq for a double suicide bombing that killed at least 36 people and wounded 64 during a wedding procession through a crowd of bystanders cheering the bride and groom in a town northeast of Baghdad.
The attack occurred Thursday evening in Balad Ruz, a predominantly Shiite town 72 kilometers (45 miles) northeast of Baghdad amid heightened worries that al-Qaeda in Iraq is regrouping despite recent security gains by U.S.-led forces.
The terror network announced April 19 that it was launching a one-month offensive against U.S. troops and U.S.-allied Sunnis.
“Al-Qaeda in Iraq continues their malicious tactics against the people of Iraq and their way of life,” the U.S. military said in a statement Friday. “They seek violence and chaos in Iraq.”
The first bomb was detonated by an Iraqi female suicide bomber imitating pregnancy, the military said. A male bomber also blew himself up. The military gave a lower casualty toll, however, of 31 dead and 52 wounded, including children.
The woman bomber blew herself up as people were dancing and clapping while members of the passing wedding party played music. The male bomber attacked minutes later as police and ambulances arrived at the scene, said Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim al-Rubaie, head of the Diyala provincial operations center that oversees Balad Ruz.
The two explosions tore through the stalls and stores that lined the area, and al-Rubaie said at least 35 people were killed and 65 suffered wounds, including the bride and groom. One of the injured died at hospital overnight, increasing the death toll to 36, police said Friday.
AP Television News footage showed mourners Friday, including a man crying and kissing the face of a dead relative on a stretcher. Blood still pooled on a dirt road littered with victims’ sandals and slippers.
Diyala has been a flashpoint in the battle against al-Qaeda in Iraq, which the U.S. military says has been increasingly using women as suicide bombers.